NESHA STARCEVIC AP Sports Writer
Newburyport Daily News
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PORTO SEGURO, Brazil (AP) — Thomas Mueller ended his first match of the World Cup tournament with a hat trick, and the second with a bloodied face.
The German forward thinks the best scenario for the third game would be for his team to beat the United States and win Group G.
Mueller needed five stiches next to his right eye after a collision late in a 2-2 draw with Ghana on Saturday and the bruise and cut are still very visible.
He said he'll play against the United States, although he won't be without pain.
"Pain-free is a big word, but I'll be able to play without pain killers," Mueller said.
Unless Germany coach Joachim Loew pulls a surprise and reshuffles his attack, Mueller will be the point man in Thursday's match against the Americans in Recife. A draw would allow both teams to advance ahead of Portugal and Ghana.
"We want to play well, try not to concede goals and win the group, but you have to very cautious," Mueller said Tuesday, before the German team's departure for Recife. "The tournament can be over very quickly."
Germany is likely to progress even if it loses, because it has a plus-4 goal difference and is equal on four points with the United States. Ghana and Portugal have one point each and meet in a match at Brasilia.
Mueller scored three goals in Germany's 4-0 opener against Portugal and provided an assist in the match against Ghana. He was top scorer at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with five goals and three assists.
With Loew preferring to play without a true striker, the Bayern Munich forward remains Germany's top attacking option. Even if Loew decided to use veteran striker Miroslav Klose, Mueller would be likely to start, on the right wing.
"The way we play is to switch positions a lot and create space for others," Mueller said. "I never really had a fixed position anyway, I've played on the right wing for the national team before, I would have no problem doing it again."
Brazil's star Neymar is one goal ahead of Mueller in this tournament, but the German player says he is not seeking the title of top scorer.
"I already have that from the last time. I want to win the big one, the World Cup title. If I score, so much the better," Mueller said.
Mueller is hard to figure for opponents because of his unorthodox style, but he also contributes in other ways. "He is very positive, he is important for the mood in the team," assistant coach Hansi Flick said.
Jurgen Klinsmann, the current coach of the U.S. team, brought Mueller into the senior squad when he coached Bayern. Under Klinsmann's successor Louis van Gaal, Mueller became a regular.
"Mueller always plays," said the coach who was famous for rotating players.
Despite his link to Klinsmann and many other bonds between the German and American teams, Mueller dismissed any notion of a deal to settle for a convenient draw.
"We are not playing against Klinsmann," he said, "we are playing against the United States."